Many people do many things all in the name of God. The irony is the very things which they do in the name of God are abhorred by God. Or even prohibited by Him.
History will show us that human beings have tortured, maimed and killed each other, all in the name of God. Untold misery and cruelty have been inflicted all in the name of God. Yet, when they speak of God and their religion, they insist that God is most merciful, most compassionate and most forgiving. And their religion is a religion of peace, justice and fairness.
In Islam for example, history would show us all that right after the passing of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w., Muslims started arguing on who would be the right candidate to be the Caliph. Then they started killing each other. Until now that is.
The Traditionalist was a loose grouping of mainstream conservative schools who called themselves ahli-sunnah-wal-jamaah (the proponents of the Prophet’s traditions and consensus). They posit that the Caliph should be elected by the influential members of the community. This was also generally accepted by another group, the Khawarij. The only difference between these two groups was that while the former narrowed the qualification to be a Caliph to just the Quraysh tribe (Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. was from the Quraysh tribe), the Khawarij did not have such qualification. The Khawarij in fact believed that a Caliph may even be removed if he breached his mandate.
This general agreement between the two groups however ended at the end of the reign of the 3rd Caliph, Uthman. His successor, Caliph Ali was met with opposition from the Khawarij as they did not agree with Caliph Ali’s compromise with the Shi’a.
The Shi’a further narrowed the qualification for the Caliphate to the family members of the Prophet in particular, the Prophet’s son-in-law, Ali and his descendants. The Shi’a argued that the head of Islam, politically and religiously, being the most important position, must not be left to human consensus and determination and thus must be so restricted.
The irony of all these is that God has never ordained that only the Quraysh or the members of the Prophet’s family could be a leader in Islam.
Soon, of course, they started killing each other. After the 4th Caliphs, namely, Caliph Ali (the first 4 Caliphs in Islam are known as the “Rightly Guided Caliphs”), what originated as a deep political schism, imbued by misplaced tribal ego, resulted in vicious hatred when theological justification was used as political validation.
Soon after Caliph Ali, the so-called Islamic leadership or state was reduced into a dynasty, starting with the Ummayad. Caliph Mu’awiya started the Ummayad dynasty which lasted nearly a hundred years. The Abbasid dynasty replaced the Ummayad in Damascus. The slaughter of the Ummayad family in their palace during the “dinner of reconciliation” is well documented.
An Ummayad prince was saved from the slaughter when he was smuggled out from the palace. He ended in the Andalus and became Caliph in present-day Spain. Islam thus had two ruling dynasty, namely, the Abbasid ruling from Damascus and later, Baghdad and the Ummayad, ruling from Spain.
At this time, Islamic theology flourished, seemingly because of the Caliph’s thirst for knowledge and enlightenment. It was during this period – the so-called “Golden Age of Islam” that we saw the rise of “Ilm-al-kalam” (the science of debate).
What started as a political schism between the Khawarij, the traditionalist and the Shi’a groups over the right to become Caliph and to rule soon degenerated into a theological teasers that later further degenerated into an inquisition. It was at about this time that a the Mu’tazila or the Rationalists appeared.
The Mu’tazila used the power of reason to argue and debate. They saw the necessity to explore God and His creation and submerged themselves over questions such as “was the Quran the words of God” or “was it created?” They also posit that man has absolute freedom of will and is his own creator of his acts. This found agreement with the other groups such as the Zadariyya and Qadariyya. The Jabriyya and to a certain extent, the Khwarij, - who believed in pre-destination by God - vehemently opposed this notion.
Matters came to a head when the Abbasid Caliph al-Ma’mun – widely believed to have been instigated by the Mu’tazilis – started the Mihna, an inquisition to force Muslims to believe the doctrine that the Quran was created. Many who did not subscribe to this doctrine were tortured and killed. The well-known Muslim jurist, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, wgo refused to yield to this doctrine, was imprisoned and flogged until he was unconscious. Elsewhere, traditionalists were hunted, arrested and tortured.
That led to the demise of the Mu’tazila, as soon the people began to dislike the group and its hands in the Mihna. To be fair, there are scholastic papers which found that the Mihna was Caliph al-Ma’mun’s own initiative and had nothing to do with the Mu’tazila.
Human beings either do not or refuse to learn from history. Throughout the passage of time, theology has continued to be used to justify and therefore, validate political acts. The blame lies, on one hand with the politicians and on the other, with the compliant ears of the masses.
In 1981, this edict was given by the person who recently, made known his aspiration to be the next Prime Minister of Malaysia, Haji Hadi Awang:
“My brothers, believe me. We oppose UMNO not because its name is UMNO, we oppose the Barisan Nasional not because its name is Barisan Nasional. We oppose them because they continue with the Constitution of the colonial, continue with the regulations of the infidel, continue with the regulations of the ignorant. Because of that we struggle to fight them. Believe me brothers, our struggle is a divine struggle (jihad). Our speech is jihad, our donation is jihad and because we struggle against these groups, if we die in our fights, our death is martyrdom, our death is an Islamic death. We do not have to join the Jews, we do not have to profess Christianity, we do not have to profess Hinduism, we do not have to profess Buddhism, but we will be infidels if we say politic is a quarter and religion is a quarter.”
Perhaps it is time we stop using religion and God.